Inevitably at some point, you’ll ask yourself, ‘how do I figure out if the SEO efforts I’ve made are actually working?’
Tracking SEO efforts can be challenging. Especially because it often takes months to achieve visible results within search engine results (ranking increases) even when there are other factors improving in the background that we cannot easily see.
How can I track my site’s success?
One of the best ways to measure site performance, SEO or not, is by monitoring your site traffic through Google Analytics.
A small bit of code which no one ever sees will sit inside your site quietly collecting data for you to review. Data so extensive I couldn’t possibly cover it all here. You can quite easily get lost in the sea of information within Google Analytics. But what’s important is that none of this is available to you unless you set it up and install it on your site.
Even if you never look at your Google Analytics in the first year of installing it at least you’ll know it’s quietly running in the background. Collecting important information that you can use, when you’re ready, to make some wise and profitable decisions about how to modify your website to grow traffic and search ranking.
Do yourself a favor and set up a Google Analytics account and install it on your Squarespace site. NOW.
It’s free. It’s easy. And it will provide you with more data than you’ll know what to do with in the months and years to come. Data is power when it comes to making your website work for your business.
In the final section of this e-course I’ll provide you with a few more suggestions for how to track your SEO performance.
Setting Up a Google Analytics Account
Go to analytics.google.com
Sign in using your Gmail account, if you don’t have a Gmail account for your business
Click on the ‘Create Account’ link to create a gmail account for your business
Follow the prompts to set up your Analytics account
Installing Google Analytics on Your Squarespace Site
Quite possibly the easiest thing you’ll do all day! The video below will show you where to find your unique Google Analytics ID which you’ll need in order to install it on your site.
Copy your Google Analytics ID
Log in to your Squarespace Site
From the main Squarespace menu go to Settings - Advanced - External Services
Paste your Google Analytics ID into the box below ‘Google Analytics’
Now Google is collecting data behind the scenes every time someone visits your website. You can start viewing that data in your Analytics account after a few weeks when there is enough data collected to be useful.
If you’d like to scratch the surface of the basic features of Google Analytics and learn better how to read the data on your Analytics dashboard check out this tutorial from Google.
We’ll learn more about how to use some your Google Analytics data to improve your website in a more advanced e-course.
For now let’s carry on getting your SEO foundations set up!
For now let’s carry on getting your SEO foundations set up!
Keywords & Phrases
The most important rule with choosing keywords and phrases is keeping your target audience in mind.
The best keywords and phrases are chosen by combining your products or services with what your target audience is searching for in your industry.
If you are a medical marijuana dispensary owner in Colorado you may come up with a keyword/phrase list that looks something like this:
However, if you do your research, you may find that your target audience is actually searching for different phrases to find businesses like yours. Phrases such as:
dispensaries near me
marijuana dispensary Denver, Colorado
So you can see that quite often our own guesses as what our keywords and phrases should be don’t always match the reality of what our target audience is really typing in to the search bar.
So why does this all matter?
Search engines like Google play the intermediary role of bringing the Google searcher and the product or service provider together.
Google’s main goal is providing those searchers with the best possible match (results) for their query. That’s the name of the SEO game. To be that perfect match for your desired audience.
That is why it is CRUCIAL to research your keywords and phrases.
There are loads of tools online to help you make educated choices about which keywords and phrases to use. Many of these resources have put a lot of time, effort and research into understand what the global online audience is searching for. We can take advantage of that data and make wise choices about which keywords and phrases to include in our own website which will likely yield higher success in the form of site traffic and eventually, increased site ranking in search engine results.
It all starts with…
How to choose the right phrases and keywords.
Here is a good step by step list to help you approach the task of choosing your keywords and phrases. Don’t stress! Yes, you want to get it right, but often keywords and phrases (and SEO as a whole) is an ongoing, evolving process. Just because you settle on a list of 10 keywords/phrases today doesn’t mean those are the keywords and phrases you have to keep for life.
Some of the tools I’ll provide you in the final section of this course, like Google Analytics, will help you track your site results which will help you determine if you need to make changes to your overall SEO plan.
Start by writing a list of 5-15 keywords and phrases that YOU THINK will get your business found online.
Now go to one or more of the following keyword research tools and type in your top 1-3 keywords/phrases and see what people are ACTUALLY searching for.
Keyword Shitter (a good place to start if you can’t think of any ideas…all you need is one keyword idea to start)
Google Trends (type in your industry and see what people are searching for today, great for coming up with blog topics as well)
Google Keyword Planner (the gold standard and most broad source for searching keywords)
WordTracker Scout (if you KNOW your competitor is killing it online you can use this tool to scan their website for which keywords they are using effectively)
Wordstream (easy to read, easy to use)
Google Autocomplete : My favorite way of finding long tail keywords (keywords that are more of a full search phrase than single thought). All you have to do is go to the Google homepage, preferably in an inconito or private browser, and type in your keyword(s) and pay close attention to what pops up in the auto complete section, these are excellent ideas based on what people search for. You can also scroll down to the bottom of the search results page to see what other keywords are related.
3. Take note of the search volumes and revise your list to add and/or remove any keywords and phrases as needed.
4. Go to your top 3 competitor websites and make a note of what keywords and phrases they have on their site.
5. Revise your list as needed.
6. Take your finalized list and incorporate those keywords and phrases into your website copy and structure as you work your way through the SEO Checklist in the next sub-section below. Make sure to incorporate your keywords and phrases in a thoughtful and logical way and avoid adding the words and phrases just to ‘get more on the page’. Remember…that’s a black hat technique.
What About Google AdWords and Pay Per Click Campaigns?
Adwords is a service offered by Google where you can pay for your website to appear at the top of the search results page for any given keyword or phrase.
AdWords and Paid Keyword Campaigns DO NOT help your SEO. Which is why I’m not covering the topic in depth on this course.
The most important thing to recognize about paid campaigns is that once you stop paying you stop appearing the top results. The only way to ensure long term, good SEO ranking is through organic (non-paid) SEO efforts like those I’m covering in this course.
It’s also worth noting that paid campaigns can be very complex to learn and master. I usually recommend that my clients hire a professional to help them run their campaign so they don’t throw their money away on an expensive gamble.
Google doesn’t restrict the number of people who are allowed to bid on keywords, therefore it can get very competitive and expensive depending on your industry.
The keyword ‘wedding photographers’ is going to be a very expensive one to rank highly on because the competition will be flooded with a lot of companies all trying to rank higher on that phrase. This makes the phrase not only expensive but very difficult to ‘win’ a top spot on.
Whereas a more niche keyword will probably be a lot easier to rank highly on. For example something like ‘custom Peruvian woven baskets’.
If you plan to run a paid campaign you’ll have to take in to consideration more than just what your target audience is searching for that will lead them to your website when planning your keyword and phrase list. You’ll need to consider additional factors such as : search volumes, competitiveness of your chosen phrases, cost per click estimations, etc.
From the above mentioned list of keyword tools, Google Keyword Planner and Wordstream will provide the best data for choosing the right keywords for a paid campaign. Both options will show you data on the competitiveness and cost of any given keyword.
NEW! Squarespace has just recently released new SEO features. We will cover those in this section.
Squarespace has a lot of built-in features which, when utilized, will help your site appear in search results. The problem is many people don’t realize it. Many Squarespace users will fall into one (or more) of these categories :
Had no idea Squarespace had built-in features for SEO.
Didn’t bother to fill out the SEO options when setting up your site, or haven’t gotten to it yet.
Completed the built-in SEO features, but might have done so incorrectly.
This section will cover the built-in Squarespace features that will help your site have a clean, accurate appearance in the major search engines.
You may have already done some of these steps but take the time to go through them again with my guidance. We’ll talk about the best way to complete these built-in features.
Squarespace SEO Checklists
Now, before you have a meltdown when you see the length of this checklist, just remember most of the tasks on these lists will only need to be done once. Some will need periodic updating, but most will not.
Also, most items in the checklist have a link to a video or step-by-step tutorial (courtesy of Squarespace) to help you navigate to the correct location in Squarespace.
So if you don’t know how to complete an item in the list, click on the link!
Have your finalized keyword and phrase list handy.
+ PRIOR TO LAUNCHING THE SITE
Best completed prior to launching your website, however, can be completed post-launch as well.
Add a site title - Even if you're using a logo you should add a site title, as the text may be Indexed by search engines. A title under 60 characters is recommended and should include one or more keywords.
Add a site description - Add a short (50-300 characters), relevant, readable description of your site to your site meta description. This text may appear below your site title in search results, depending on what your visitors search for.
Add your location - Your site has a better chance of appearing in searches for your area if Google and your customers can see your location. If you have a business with a physical location, we recommend you create a Contact us page with your address and a map. Alternately, in some templates your business information can display on your site.
Connect a custom domain - Using a custom domain (rather than the built-in .squarespace.com URL) strengthens your brand and makes it easier for potential customers to find you in search results.
Connect to social media - Set up social sharing to link to your social media profiles, push content as you publish it, and encourage people options to sharing your pages.
Check your page and title formats - Control how your page titles appear in browser tabs, social shares, and search engine results. You can set this for page titles, the homepage, and collection items (such as blog posts or products).
Create a 404 page - Add a custom 404 Page with links to some of the popular or important areas of your site. This encourages visitors who encounter a broken link to stay on your site, rather than immediately going back to search results.
Check page descriptions - Ensure each page on your site has a unique page description.
Choose your blog post URL format - If you're blogging, choose how your blog post URLs are automatically created. While you can choose any options that fit your needs, we recommend you always include the post's title.
Check URL slugs - It’s best to have URLs that reflect the content of the page. In particular, if you save a blog post, product, or event before adding a title, the URL slug will be a random string of characters. Check the slugs for each page and item on your site, and change any that don't use real words.
Review your content - Ensure you've followed the content best practices for all pages on your site.
+ IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING SITE LAUNCH
Recommended to complete immediately following site launch but can be done later as well.
Verify your site with Google Search Console - Once you've verified your site with Google, you can manage your site’s presence in Google search results and see how visitors find you.
Request that Google index your site - This asks Google's bots to review your site and update search results with your new content.
Verify your site with Bing Webmaster Tools - Verify your site with Bing to manage your site’s presence in Bing and Yahoo search results.
Enable AMP - If you have a blog, enabling AMP creates a stripped-down version of your site that loads faster on mobile devices.
Connect to Google Analytics - Track visits and other reporting on your site through our built-in integration with Google. See below for a step-by-step tutorial.
Phew! Well done for completing your SEO Checklists. It’s smooth sailing from here.
2019 SEO Considerations
User Experience (UX) Signals : If a user stays on your webpage/website longer, Google recognizes it and rewards you with higher ranking in the search results. Takeaway, your content needs to be thorough, helpful and has to keep the user engaged.
The longer a user stays on your webpage the better your ranking will be.
How do you get a user to stay on your page longer? Here are some well-researched techniques that have been tested and proven to improve ranking scores for individual pages.
Thorough + Helpful Content : One of the best tried and true methods for getting people to your site and keeping them on your site is good, thorough content.
If you do a Google search for any given query you’ll likely notice that most of the results on page 1 are very detailed, thorough articles answering the question or query you searched for.
So, answer their questions in detail. Keep them reading with the following tactics and they’ll stick around longer.
Body (Text) Breakdowns : Break down content and make it easy to read so people don’t get bored and their brain is encouraged to carry on reading. You may notice that I have used them throughout this e-course. Here are some examples of Body Breakdowns.
Here’s How it’s Done
There’s a Catch
The Best Part?
Why Does This Matter?
That’s Not All…
Subheadings / Bullets / Numbered Lists : Not just subheadings, but detailed subheadings, including benefits.
Not a Good Subheading : Section 5
A Good Subheading : Section 5 Bose vs. AirPods The Top 5 Differences
APP Formula : In 2 seconds a user decides whether or not to stay on your site. So make sure you start your page with some really intriguing content. A well know formula that many experienced SEO pros use is APP.
Agree, Promise, Preview
Agree : a statement that the user will likely agree with. This gets them on the same page as you.
Promise : a statement that shows them how you can help improve their situation or answer their question.
Preview : a brief intro which tells the user what they can expect to learn in the following article, or in other words, a preview of the information that will follow.
There are a lot of people saying that Squarespace is bad for SEO. (agree)
I’m going to show you why that is NOT true by giving you proven techniques to improve your Squarespace SEO. (promise)
In this article, I’ll outline the common reasons why people misunderstand Squarespace SEO as well as how to avoid making those same mistakes on your own site. (preview)
Further Reading :
Google’s ability to intelligently apply user experiences on your website to your overall site ranking are part of the Rank Brain algorithm. You learn more about this AI technology in my recent blog post on the topic.
VOICE COMMAND TECHNOLOGY + SEarch
Voice activated assistants are not a passing fad. It’s clear that voice activated technology is here to stay. And while I personally think that Siri still needs a LOT of work before she’s truly ‘intelligent’, mobile users have a number of options including Alexa…a Google product.
So how do voice assistants affect your SEO strategy?
There have been a lot of studies on how we phrase our words when searching online vs. speaking to a virtual assistant. That data has clearly shown two important differences:
1) We use longer phrases when speaking to a virtual assistant like Siri or Alexa.
2) We tend to focus mostly on question phrases, not statements.
Using this information we know that IF we want to optimize our websites to be found by virtual assistants we should include not only long tail keywords but long tailed keywords in the form of question phrases. Let’s break down the differences.
A regular keyword might look something like this :
A long-tail keyword would then look like this :
bose soundsport wireless review
And finally, the gold mine for optimizing for voice technology, a long tail question phrase :
“What are the best wireless headsets on the market?”
If you want to optimize for voice technology, use long tailed question phrases as part of your overall SEO plan. They lend themselves well to blog post subjects and titles.
If you want to really drive growth in your ranking on Google in 2019, focus on the user experience and keep visitors on your site longer.
SEO is an Ongoing Effort
I wish I could tell you that once you’ve set up your on-site SEO you’re set for life. But unfortunately, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Great SEO requires time and patience.
Why Won’t My Site Ranking Increase Quickly?
It takes time for Google and the other major search engines to index your site, especially once you’ve made changes to an existing site. Remember at the end of the SEO Checklist one of the items was to ‘Request that Google Index your site’? With the many millions of sites globally, this process can take time and no one has an exact estimate.
SEO is like building a skyscraper. You have to start with a solid foundation which is what you will have accomplished in taking this course. The next steps build on that foundation with more advanced techniques that add to your success. It’s all part of a larger process.
There are many factors involved. Remember in section 1 we talked about all the many variables that make up your site ranking? Well, a lot of those factors involve generating traffic over time. You won’t get 1,000 clicks on an article you published 2 hours ago…unless you are already viral or at the top of your industry, in which case I suspect you wouldn’t be taking this course. It takes time to achieve. Just like a credit score takes time to build.
With that in mind, I wanted to leave you all with some proven SEO techniques you can employ on an ongoing basis to continue to grow your SEO once you’ve completed this course with some expanded details directly from Squarespace.
Try to schedule it in to your weekly or monthly agenda. It will pay dividends.
Ongoing SEO Task List
ONGOING : After your site has launched you should plan to set aside a bit of time each week or month to keep your site up-to-date.
Review your site Analytics - Visit your site's Google Search Keywords panel and other analytics panels, such as Other Search Keywords, Activity Log, and Traffic Overview, to track changes to your site traffic and search engine ranking. With this data you can make intelligent decisions about what kind of content your visitors like and dislike, what to include more or less of and much more.
Make updates strategically - Continue optimizing your site by following the Squarespace content best practices.
Redirect changed or broken links - Broken links can have a negative impact on your SEO ranking. Check for broken links periodically throughout the year (I check quarterly). I’ve included a free broken link check tool in the final section of this course.
Broken links can be caused by a number of things, but if you intentionally change the URL slug on a page on your site, create URL redirects to forward visitors who go to the old URL to the correct page.
Continue updating and adding content - Updating your site frequently helps search engines see your site as active site. One way to regularly add content to your site is to start blogging.
How long will it take to see changes in my site ranking?
No one can give a definitive answer to this question. Remember the SEO analogy in Section 1 where I compared your SEO ranking to a credit score? Well answering the question of how long it will take to see your site ranking improve is like asking when you will see your credit score increase. We just don’t know.
The best thing you can do to move the process along is to request a crawl of your website AFTER you’ve completed all of your SEO updates (the checklist above).
Beyond that, you’re at the mercy of a multitude of factors. But we know one thing is for sure, if we practice all of these techniques to the best of our ability, we should see some level of improvement and hopefully, a lot!